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Saving our planet is the key phrase on everybody’s lips these days. Can you contribute your bit to sustainable development?
By Melanie Lobo
Green power or green technologies are now a trend fast catching on worldwide. You may have even replaced household cleaners with organic ones in your bid to help the environment, but what about at work? Whether you have a home office, or work in a big company, consider making your office more environmentally friendly. Doing this can actually save you and your company money (and win you brownie points!)
Here are some ideas to make your office space greener:
1. Use environmental friendly office supplies: Visit any large office supply store and you will be surprised at the many eco friendly products available. Stock up your office with green writing supplies. These could include computer paper, mailers, notebooks, writing instruments, envelopes and many other types of office stationery. Buy products which can be reused or hardy ones that will last longer that the usual life span of office goods. Recycle used office supplies whenever possible. Eliminate the use of products that there are no green alternatives for, like rubber bands.
2. Cut down on Office Transportation: Car pooling and the use of public transport benefit both the organization and its employees. Employees should be encouraged to find coworkers that live next to them or close to them. Incentivize by offering parking spots in closed or shaded areas (if possible) for these carpoolers.
Telecommuting could be an option as well. This will allow employees to work from home for one or more days a week. According to Vinuta Gopal, Climate and Energy Campaign Manager at Greenpeace, a global environmental non-profit organization, the biggest energy footprint is travel, especially air travel. She feels that offices could reduce air travel and opt for travel by rail or bus, as these modes of transport are more environmental friendly. While this may not be possible for long distances, it could be considered for journeys shorter than 6-7 hours.
3. Go green with office paper: Purchase and use recycled paper. If the office printer has an eco mode, be sure to use it. Make sure all copiers and printers are set to print on both sides of the paper. Also ensure that you recycle your ink and printer cartridges. Only turn your printer on when it is necessary, not every time you turn your computer on.
View documents on your computer instead of printing out hard copies to view. Reuse paper that has printed material on only one side. Keep a box next to each printer with papers like these, for people to use. If possible, have bins to recycle paper at employees’ desks, or have one large recycling bin in the office which should be used regularly. One person can be deputed to ensure that employees are doing this or he/she can collect the paper to be recycled at the end of each week from the employees. Email instead of faxing whenever possible.
4. Use office equipment wisely: Office equipment including computers, fax machines and printers use much more energy than you possibly realize. Simply turning all such equipment onto sleep mode when you are not using them can save energy. You can also turn the machines off when you leave for the evening or during the weekends.
Or, buy a printer cum fax machine and copier, which makes for more efficient power usage. Get flat screen monitors for the office computers as they are more efficient.
5. Monitor Lighting Usage: Do your best to cut down on the use of unnecessary lighting. Replace conventional bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or lower wattage bulbs. This will be expensive initially as these bulbs are more expensive, but they will save you money in the long run. Also, they do use less energy, so this is a better choice for the environment. Use motion detectors to monitor lighting in areas that are not used frequently. Turn out conference lights when meetings are over.
6. Heating and Cooling: You can save about 10 per cent on your office electricity bill by just adjusting the thermostat by one or two degrees. Heating, cooling and powering office space accounts for almost 70 per cent of electricity usage. Use automatic setback thermostats for adjusting the office temperature over the weekends and evenings as well. Consider using solar shading as this will reduce the amount of heat that penetrates the office building. Keep office blinds closed during the summer to keep the heat out and in winter as well, to conserve the heat.
7. Eliminate vending machine waste: Most offices now have vending machines for their employees. However, these machines do not help the environment in any way. If the office vending machine dispenses its own cups, ensure that these cups are recyclable. Or, see if the machine will allow office employees to use their own mugs instead of plastic mugs each time.
While on the subject of waste, ensure that no plastic cutlery is used in the office cafeteria/ kitchen area. Have reusable mugs, glasses and dishes rather than disposables. Once again, opt for eco friendly items in these areas.
8. Green your office with plants: Have at least one plant if not a couple in your office. Plants are great for decoration and also help to recycle the air.
9. Filter office rubbish/waste: Paper should be sent away to be recycled and reused. Most cans and plastic material are recyclable and should be separated from rubbish that cannot be.
Vinuta also feels that companies must first, assess and publicly declare what their “carbon footprint” is. For example, information technology major Wipro announced its carbon footprint some time ago. Only then can steps be taken to reduce this carbon footprint.
The greenhouse effect and global warming is a threat looming above all of us and should be addressed aggressively, whether on the home front or in offices. It is good to note that at least some Indian companies have begun monitoring their carbon footprint.
Melanie Lobo is a freelance writer. She grew up in cities across India but now
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